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DIFF to present strong line-up of Arab films – Spotlight on Oscar hopefuls

Princess Ghida Salam, spouse of Jordan’s Prince Talal Ibn Mohammad, delivers a speech afer receiving a Lifetime Achievement award. (AFP) - Egyptian Iman Bibars, from the Ashoka organization, speaks after receiving an International Contribution to Arab Society award. (AFP)
Princess Ghida Salam, spouse of Jordan’s Prince Talal Ibn Mohammad, delivers a speech afer receiving a Lifetime Achievement award. (AFP) – Egyptian Iman Bibars, from the Ashoka organization, speaks after receiving an International Contribution to Arab Society award. (AFP)

DUBAI, Nov 27: The 13th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled its full line-up of 156 films from 55 countries alongside a diverse industry programme for filmmakers and executives at the Dubai Film Market (DFM), a strong competition and a rich slate of Special Presentations, Red Carpet Galas and exciting community events.

The Festival, which runs Dec 7-14, spans feature, non-fiction and short films, and includes an astonishing 57 world premieres and international premieres, 73 MENA premieres, 12 Middle East premieres and 9 GCC premieres. The films, crafted in more than 44 languages, populate DIFF’s Arab and Emirati competitions, and its out-of-competition segments dedicated to children, the Arab world, Virtual Reality and cinema from around the globe. With 18 Galas and 16 Special Presentations announced, Q&As and special appearances from a stellar line-up of industry talent and the spotlight firmly on Oscar hopefuls as well as promising Arab talent, the stage is set for another sparkling eight-day celebration of the very best in cinema.

Continuing to provide a platform for talent from the region, once again this year a high calibre of contemporary Arab films will compete in the Muhr Competition and the impressive slate is testament to the vibrant creativity of Arab independent filmmaking. The DIFF 2016 selection also showcases an incredible line-up of contemporary Arab cinema, with 62 biopics, comedies, dramas and love stories from the Arabian Peninsula, Levant and North Africa.

This year, DIFF’s Opening Night Gala on Wednesday, 7th December presents the international premiere of John Madden’s tense and topical political thriller, ‘Miss Sloane’, the story of a ruthless lobbyist who is notorious for her unparalleled talent and her desire to win at all costs, even when it puts her own career at risk. Starring Jessica Chastain, the thriller pulls back the curtain on how Capitol Hill games are played and won as Sloane faces off against the most influential powers in D.C.

Closing the curtain on what promises to be another spectacular Festival, DIFF’s Closing Night Gala will be one of the most anticipated releases of the year, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’. From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.


‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.  ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ opens in UAE theatres on Dec 15, 2016.

Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of DIFF, said: “What amazes me every year about the Festival is its ability to both inspire the community and film lovers from around the world, as well as have a tangible impact on the region’s film industry and that is evident as we unveil another diverse programme for 2016. We are incredibly proud to be able to say that DIFF makes a valuable and real contribution to Arab cinema, whether that is by bringing local talent together with international industry representatives, support through the Dubai Film Market, or giving hands-on experiences to the next generation of filmmakers.

“For residents and visitors to the UAE, the Festival is a time to celebrate the magic of cinema. People have the chance to hear stories from around the region and the world they may never be exposed to through our varied and rich slate of films; to celebrate the most anticipated films of the year at public screenings and interact with their directors in person; and to hear first-hand from legendary international talents that have helped shape the industry. It is incredible to see just how much is achieved in eight days, and that is the true wonder of the Dubai International Film Festival,” he added.

At its opening ceremony, DIFF will present three prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards, recognising those individuals’ incredible contributions to cinema. The award will be presented to the American film icon Samuel L. Jackson, long-celebrated as one of cinema’s most talented and intuitive actors. With over four decades in the industry and featuring in more than 100 films, Jackson has crafted a diverse and successful career in Hollywood and beyond and earned multiple awards and accolades for his efforts. Also being recognised for their work is legendary Rekha, one of the greatest actresses in Hindi cinema with a wide-ranging and exciting career spanning 40 years and 180 films. The third award will be presented to Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Grammy award-winning French Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared, an internationally acclaimed composer whose impressive filmography spans three decades.

DIFF’s ‘In Conversation’ event on Friday, 9th will be with Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson when  industry and fans alike will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear the actor’s cinematic story in the Madinat Souk Theatre.


In collaboration with OSN, TV fans can watch an episode of HBO’s latest epic hit series ‘Westworld’ the sci-fi thriller, followed by an ‘In Conversation’ with the show’s talent Jeffrey Wright and Luke Hemsworth on Sunday, 11th in the Madinat Souk Theatre.

Masoud Amralla Al Ali, DIFF Artistic Director, said: “Supporting Arab talent is really at the centre of DIFF — we are an international festival with an Arab heart. The industry here and the gifted individuals within it impress me year on year and this edition is no exception – you just have to look at the line-up of this year’s Muhr Competition. More than 60 films will enter the competition, each one with its own unique perspective to share. It is important that we continue to tell the stories of this region with the world, and DIFF is proud to provide a platform for those voices to be heard.”

For the fifth consecutive year, IWC Schaffhausen has collaborated with the DIFF to grant one talented filmmaker from the region the esteemed award and a cash prize of US$ 100,000. The nominees for 2016 are Emirati director Nujoom Al Ghanem with “Salem”, Qatari director Hafiz Ali Ali for the animated film “The Search for the Star Pearl” and Emirati filmmaker Abdullah Hassan Ahmed with “Sunrise”. An acclaimed jury of industry experts will determine the potential of each film project and select the winner at the exclusive IWC gala dinner on Thursday, 8th December 2016, at the One & Only Royal Mirage in Dubai.

The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) is also proud to continue its partnership with The United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Interior for the third year running which comprises a prize of $100,000 and The Ministry of Interior’s Cinema Award which will be presented at the Festival.

Running concurrently with the DIFF, the Dubai Film Market (DFM) is a vital part of the festival and now considered the leading industry platform in the region and a gateway to the one of the fastest growing film and TV markets in the world. Throughout the week festival-goers can attend more than 25 panel discussions and events as part of DFM, including ‘In the Director’s Chair’ sessions with Academy Award and four-time BAFTA winning director Asif Kapadia and acclaimed director Lenny Abrahamson who received an Oscar nomination for DIFF’s opening night film last year, ‘Room’. Further highlights include an ‘In Conversation’ with president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs.

DFM boasts a range of initiatives to back Arab talent, offering total script-to-screen support for emerging filmmakers. It has supported more than 300 projects to date, many of which have gone on to enjoy critical acclaim and find new audiences at the world’s most prestigious events including the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs. More than 3,000 media and industry delegates from 65 countries are expected to attend the industry events programme to do business, attend work-in-progress screenings, masterclasses, and seminars, meet new projects, network and acquire content.

The DFM has also launched The Dubai Investors Club, an exciting initiative designed to offer investors from the region an opportunity to learn about the essentials of successful international film financing with internationally renowned experts and film leaders from around the world.

The 13th edition also sees Screen International’s acclaimed talent-spotting initiative come to DIFF with the launch of ‘Arab Stars of Tomorrow’. Promising acting and directing talent making waves on the festival circuit and international stage will be announced during the Festival.

Shivani Pandya, DIFF Managing Director, said: “This year we have continued to strengthen the Festival’s position as a platform for Arab talent and that work takes place year-round, not just during the Festival itself. Earlier this month we presented two exceptional Arab films to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and we will be welcoming the association back to the Festival in December, alongside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These are two of the most influential and respected bodies in the industry and their presence at DIFF is testament to the importance of Arab cinema on a global stage – something we are proud to say we have been able to contribute to through many of the initiatives that take place each year, from the Dubai Investors Club and the Dubai Film Connection, to our production support programme with Enjaaz which has helped many local works come to full fruition. One thing I am particularly excited about this year is the launch of the Virtual Reality cinema bringing festival goers the futuristic film experiences in 360 degrees.”

Virtual Reality (VR) takes centre stage at the Dubai Film Market this year in a section brand new to DIFF, ‘DIFFerent REALITY’, designed to give Festival-goers a window into the possibilities of virtual reality technology. Ten of the world’s most advanced VR films, including five world premieres, will provide an unmatched cinematic viewing experience at the DU VR Cinema powered by Samsung. The programme will celebrate some of the most exciting VR and augmented reality work to date, giving audiences the opportunity to experience an immersive journey into this boundary-pushing new world of technology.  The line-up includes The Machine to be Another, a multisensory interactive system designed by the interdisciplinary art/science collective “BeAnotherLab” as a tool for embodied-immersive storytelling and promotion of empathy and tolerance, and DiVR – Blue Effect, an atmospheric sci-fi wave shooter that will thrill you, test your endurance and bravery!

The hugely popular and free-to-attend Beach Screenings in partnership with Meraas return to DIFF this year to bring the community together to share a night of film under the stars. On the Festival’s opening night, Dec 7, film fans at THE BEACH opposite JBR will be able to watch all the action live from the red carpet as it unfolds. THE BEACH will then go on to host the premiere of Jordan Robert’s American adventure comedy-drama ‘Burn Your Maps’ starring Vera Farmiga and Jacob Tremblay.

On Dec 8, THE BEACH will show the stunning animated masterpiece ‘The Red Turtle’ from Michaël Dudok de Wit which picked up Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year along with many other accolades. Lutz Gregor’s beautiful and soulful documentary ‘Mail Blues’ will show on the 9th featuring live performances.


‘A Fistful of Dollars’, the classic 1964 spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood in his first leading role will screen on the 10th. The film is one of 90 titles to have been restored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

Iman Kamel’s creative and compelling documentary ‘Egyptian Jeanne d’Arc’ on the 11th followed by a live performance and one of the most beautiful films ever to be shot, Otto Bell’s ‘Eagle Huntress’ will screen at THE BEACH on Dec 12.

To mark its 40th anniversary, THE BEACH will play host to the 1966 American superhero film ‘Batman’ on Dec 13, based on the television series and the first full-length theatrical adaptation of the DC Comics character, Batman. The film was directed by Leslie H. Martinson and stars Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin.

‘The Space Between Us’, a romantic science fiction adventure drama directed by Peter Chelsom and starring Asa Butterfield and Gary Oldman closes DIFF’s Beach Screenings on the 14th.

In support of UNICEF’s incredible work for a world in which every child has a fair chance in life and to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, DIFF will screen a UNICEF short film ahead of every Beach Screening focusing on children who are affected by the Syrian crisis. The series entitled ‘In their own voice: aspirations of Syria’s children amid uncertain future’, offers a chance for children to speak about their dreams and ambitions with a focus on the importance of education.

Adding a touch of sparkle to proceedings, DIFF cinemagoers will be treated to numerous Red Carpet Galas and the opportunity to watch regular screenings throughout the week at DIFF’s purpose built state-of-the-art screening venue, the Madinat Arena. In addition there will be a series of red carpet presentations at the Madinat Theatre in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah along with screenings of the best films from around the world at VOX cinemas, Mall of the Emirates.

These start rolling on Thursday 8th December with the World Premiere of ‘Befikre’, the Hindi romantic comedy from Aditya Chopra starring Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor, and will be followed by the latest work from two-time Oscar winner Ang Lee who brings his extraordinary vision to DIFF in ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’, based on the widely-acclaimed bestselling novel.

Friday 9th will present a triple bill of screenings at the Arena beginning with a Children’s Gala for ‘Swallows and Amazons’, the ultimate family adventure film directed by Philippa Lowthorpe and based on the popular children’s books of the 1930s and 1940s. This will be followed by Emirati director Ali F. Mostafa’s third feature film, the dystopian thriller ‘The Worthy’, and Lone Scherfig’s British romantic comedy ‘Their Finest’ starring Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy and Sam Claflin.

The 10th plays host to a further four gala screenings. DIFF’s Saturday morning Madinat Arena screening is the 3D computer-animated comedy family film ‘Rock Dog’ directed by Ash Brannon featuring the voices of Luke Wilson and J.K Simons. The dazzling romantic musical comedy-drama ‘La La Land’ written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and J. K. Simmons will light up the Arena screen in the afternoon.  The evening galas opens with the provocative Egyptian drama ‘The Preacher’ directed by Magdy Ahmed Aly and starring Amr Saad, Dorra Zarrouk and Ahmed Magdy, and John Lee Hancock’s ‘The Founder’ – a biographical drama about the founder of McDonald’s starring Michael Keaton in the title role closes the day.

‘Manchester By The Sea’, a highly acclaimed American drama directed and written by Kenneth Lonergan and starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams is first up on Sunday 11th. The World Premiere of the Lebanese comedy ‘Solitaire’ from director Sophie Boutros and starring Julia Kassar, Ali El Khalil and Bassam Koussa follows, and the visually spectacular drama ‘A Monster Calls’ from director Juan Antonio Bayona and featuring Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson rounds the day off.


Monday 12th will enjoy two screenings beginning with Argentina’s Foreign-Language Oscar entry ‘The Distinguished Citizen’ directed by Gaston Duprat, and Tom Ford’s psychological thriller ‘Nocturnal Animals’ starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal concludes the day.

Philippe Falardeau brings his exceptional biographical sports drama to the Madinat Arena on Tuesday 13th, ‘The Bleeder’, starring Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber and Ron Pearlman. The star-studded American drama ‘Collateral Beauty’ from David Frankel, which stars Will Smith, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris and Keira Knightly, closes the curtain on the day’s screenings.

On Dec 12, Eva Longoria Bastón will return to Dubai with the support of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) and UAE-based global philanthropic organization Dubai Cares to host an exclusive gala dinner and high-end auction featuring one-of-a-kind prizes to raise funds for Dubai Cares and the Global Gift Foundation, the official Charity Gala of the festival. Funds raised during the Gala will go towards supporting programs in four different continents making it a truly global gala in partnership with Dubai Cares, Harmony House (India), the Eva Longoria Foundation (USA & Mexico) and the Global Gift Gala’s Casa Global Gift. A night of film stars and philanthropy is expected at The Four Seasons Resort at Jumeirah Beach. The annual glittering black-tie charity evening, sponsored by the Apparel Group, will host international stars led by Honorary Chair of the Gala Eva Longoria Bastón, Melanie Griffith and Will Poulter.

A special presentation ‘Lumière! Inventing Cinema’ will light up the Madinat Souk Theatre screens on Thursday, 8th December at 4 pm inviting festival goers to discover a selection of short films from the Lumière brothers, the pioneers of cinema who made some of the world’s first and most famous films using the Cinematograph — an invention that forever changed the way we see the world. This outstanding exhibition, a compilation of 98 conserved and restored films in 4k which Louis Lumière and his brother, Auguste made between 1895 and 1905, will be presented by Thierry Frémaux, the General Director of the Cannes Film Festival and the Institut Lumière in Lyon and one of the international film community’s most distinguished figures.

DIFF audiences are invited to attend the ‘Great Adaptations: From Novel to Screen’ event in partnership with Emirates Airline Festival of Literature when Andrea Gibb, who wrote the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ screenplay and the film’s producer Nick Barton will delve into the creative process of adapting a novel to the screen. The event will run following the second screening on Saturday, Dec 10 and is scheduled to commence at 6pm at VOX, Mall of the Emirates.

The 13th edition of DIFF will see films screened over eight days at the Madinat Jumeirah Arena, Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah and VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates and THE BEACH – opposite JBR. Cinemagoers will be able to buy tickets from the DIFF box office, which will open online on Friday, November 25th www.dubaifilmfest.com and at the box office at VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates. Tickets will also be available from the Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah from Tuesday, December 6th and from the Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah on Wednesday, 7th December.

International talent flying into Dubai this December includes: Samuel L. Jackson, Rekha, Bill Nighy, Luke Hemsworth, Jeffrey Wright, Andie MacDowell, Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Melanie Griffith, Tuba Büyüküstün, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley, Enzo Cilento, Eva Longoria Bastón, Dave Johns, Lenny Abrahamson and Asif Kapadia.

Arab celebrities set to grace the red-carpet include: Gabriel Yared, Hend Sabri, Nelly Karim, Sabrine, Leila Eloui, Dareen Hamze, Julia Kassar, Elham Shahine, Bassem Samra, Ali Suliman, Anoushka, Dorra Zarrouk, Donya Al Shirbini, Qusai Khawli, Amal Boushocha, Suzanne Najm El Din, Samer Al Masri, Abed Fahed, Bassem Yakhour, Bassel Khayat, Ali Suliman, Elham Fadala, Amro Saad, Riham Haggag, and Rodrigue Suleiman, Ahmed Magdi and Ali Khalil.

Talent from across the GCC and UAE set to attend includes: Huda Hussain, Khaled Ameen, Latifa Al Mujrin, Bassem Abdul Ameer, Hamad Al Omani, Ebrahim Al Harbi, Ahmed Al Ansari, Ahmad Al Jasmi, Jaber Naghmoush, Habib Ghuloom, Hassan Ragab, Hamid Sumbaikh, Razika Al Taresh, Mariam Sultan, Huda Al Khatib, Marwan Abdullah Saleh, Sultan Al Neyadi, Samira Ahmad, Abdullah Abo Abed, Mansour Al Feeli, Haifaa Hussain, Mahmoud boushehri, Abeer Ahmad, Heba Al Durri.

The Dubai International Film Festival will run from Dec 7-14, 2016 and ticket packages are on sale now, for more information visit diff.ae. Additional information is also available through the Festival’s dedicated customer care number, 363 FILM (3456).


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